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Graham Sowa: I've been living in Cuba for three years now. I would like to blame my obvious hair loss seen in this updated photo on the rigors of life here and medical school, but it is probably just genetic. I've made some of the strongest friendships during my time in Cuba from other writers on this website. The strength of those friendships has almost restored my faith that the online world can lead to offline and real life change. On that same note I've adjusted to using internet one or two hours a month. In the meantime I have rediscovered things like flipping through the pages of books, writing stuff down by hand, and having to admit that I don't know something instead of rapidly looking up the answer on Google while the teacher isn't looking.

Medicare Fraud, Medicines and Cubans

September 26, 2013 | Print Print |

Graham Sowa

graham-1HAVANA TIMES — Miami-Dade County is the per-capita and monetary leader of Medicare fraud in the United States.  Not surprisingly, given the geography, there are more than a few Cuban-Americans getting in on the action.

I am also sort of responsible.  Unlike the perpetrators that make the news, I have not used thousands of Medicare user identities to file false reimbursement claims for home nurses or HIV/AIDS treatment.

But I have counseled my Cuban patients with family members in the United States to try to get expensive pharmaceuticals through Medicare.

Usually these are patients that cannot afford their treatment in the “international” pharmacy that stocks medicine in Convertible Pesos or in the case of medicines that don’t enter the country because of the embargo/blockade.

After advising a number of patients about Medicare and the possibility of getting medicine from abroad I decided to look into the legality of this inventive method of medicinal procurement.

However, instead of finding case law and news articles about elderly asthma medicine smugglers leaving Miami International Airport, I came across plenty about Cuban-Americans stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare.

The involvement of Miami-Dade county in general, and the Cuban-Americans in particular, is so prevalent in Medicare fraud I was taken aback that I had not read about this in the Cuban news.

As a daily consumer of Cuban print media I’ve become fairly expectant of the latest bad news from the United States. The Cuban editors never miss a moment to remind us of the myriad of problems my home country suffers from.

This is especially true when that bad news happens to involve the Cuban exile community in Miami.

Between the Nuevo Herald and Granma you would think that the two exist exclusively to antagonize the other; the reader be damned…or damned bored as the case may be.

During the past year there have been some real page turning stories coming out of Miami in relation to people stealing from the United States Government and their fellow elderly citizens.

graham-2The case of Caribbean Transfers is a doozey.  The company ostensibly sent remittances from clients in the United States of America to their family or friends in Cuba.

However, their bread and butter was the lucrative business of sending ill-gotten winnings from Medicare fraud to Cuban, and other off-shore bank accounts.

I remember during my first couple of years of medical school here more than a few students used Caribbean Transfers to receive money from their parents.

If only we would have known that we were patronizing a service that was helping to drain our beyond broke medical system of resources.  Resources intended for the most needy and elderly of our society.

Making United States headlines again in May of this year, Miami came through with an astounding 25% of the arrests made in a nationwide Medicare Fraud crackdown that lead to 90 arrests total.  The defendants are accused of robbing the rest of us of nearly a quarter billion dollars.

Society is vindicated when people get arrested from bilking our medical system and taxpayers.

It is a shame that the crimes occurred for so long that the perpetrators racked up hundreds of millions before they were brought to justice.


What's your opinion?

  • emagicmtman

    Besides Medicare fraud, South Florida is also the HQ for Medicaid fraud, as exemplified by the plethora of “pill mills,” where narcotics, like Oxycodine, are freely and extravagantly dispensed. During a trip to So. Florida in 2011 to attend my 50th high school reunion, after a visit to my sister outside Atlanta, I had to take the “Grey Dog” the rest of the way to Miami. During that leg of the journey the back of the bus was filled with a motely crew of colorful characters. I was regaled by their many “war stories” of how they were planning score thousands of doses of these narcotics before returning North. These addicts were, of course, on welfare, and all had managed to overcome the prohibitions against receiving welfare for mere alcohol or drug addiction by getting a “dual diagnosis” of “PTSD” (etc., etc.) AND alcohol or substance addiction. Hence, besides Medicare fraud, there is also as much Medicaid fraud in So. Fla. Funny how “our” government seems unable to deal with this situation. From time-to-time there are sensational arrests, such as in the Caribbean Transfers case, but over-all these problems persists. Makes you sort of suspicious about what policies really drive the authorities.

  • Griffin

    So an American studying at a Cuban college admits to advising Cuban citizens to bilk the US medicaid system. He avoids any sense of guilt for urging people to commit fraud, by pointing out, “Well other people do it too and they’re way worse!”

    You seem to have some problems with ethics, Graham.

    • grahamsowa

      Griffin, If you were sick and needed the meds I´d tell you to do the same. If you didn´t on principle, well then it is your health. Also, you shouldn´t use quotation marks because I didn´t actually say what you quoted…which also opens the door on an ethics discussion…

      • Griffin

        Graham,

        Please forgive my stylistic error in using the quotation marks. The comments section here does not provide tools for italics or other html. My point stands: you excuse your behaviour by pointing to other people who are doing much more of the same kind of fraud.

        You admit to counselling people to commit fraud. That is illegal. As an American student in Cuba, you are aiding the corrupt system which oppresses the Cuban people. There is a reason why Cuba is consistently ranked as one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. Rather than helping the Cuban people, you are helping to perpetuate the harm being done to them. What’s that part of the Hippocratic Oath again? Oh right, “Do no harm.”

        You exhibit the typical moral contradictions of the Left. While declaring your concern for the wellbeing of the poor, you endorse and provide material support for a brutal regime which has exploited millions of people, funded terrorists around the world and is complicit in smuggling weapons to North Korea, in violation of a UN weapons ban. But you need to be a “doctor”, so none of that matters to you.

        You know all this, but you hide it from yourself by believing your work as a doctor, if & when you graduate, is for some sort of noble, higher cause. This you believe gives you a a free pass, a sort of moral indulgence to excuse your complicity with the Castro regime.

  • Moses Patterson

    The Cuban banking system requires the buyer to show ID when you use a 100 cuc bill. If you deposit more than 1000 cuc in your account at one time, you are required to fill out a form asking for the source of funds. If you make a purchase in a state store over 1000 cuc you need to show ID as well. Against this backdrop of currency control, allegedly to protect against counterfeiting, how in the hell was it possible for Caribbean Transfers to deposit MILLIONS of dollars without high-level government officials being involved? Not are white Cubans in Miami commit fraud, but all fraud committed by Cubans in Miami is committed by white Cubans. (sound familiar?)